Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Melissa Busekros and her sister speak with Richard Guenther, director of European operations for the International Human Rights Group. The girls are in a clearing house where Melissa was scheduled to meet her parents
A teenager taken from her home and parents by German police officers and institionalized in a psychiatric ward for homeschooling is pleading with the international community for help so she can return home.
“I want to ask you for help, to get my right to go back to my family, as I wish,” Melissa Busekros wrote in an English letter hand-delivered to the International Human Rights Group, whose lawyers have been working on her case.
More than six weeks ago she was taken “with more than 15 police men” from her home to a psychiatric hospital in Nuremberg, she wrote, and about a month she was placed in a foster home.
“I am not sick as the doctor said and my family is the best place for me to live,” she said her letter.
WND reported earlier this week a German appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision to remove the 15-year-old from her home and keep her in foster care, despite a lower court’s proposal accepted by the parents for her to return home under state supervision.
Part of the appeals court ruling included a requirement for her parents, Hubert and Gudrun Busekros, to also be given state-sponsored psychiatric tests, and Joel Thornton, president of the IHRG said there was a high concern that the government will use those tests to remove the other five children from the family.
There also is the fear “Melissa will be returned to the psychiatric clinic system in Germany and ‘disappear.’ This would leave the family with no way to know where Melissa is or how she is doing. She could become a ward of the state and completely lost to her family,” Thornton said.
“The trouble is this emboldens the state again, only now it’s at a higher level, and the courts still are agreeing with them. This could put Melissa back into the psychiatric system where she could disappear from sight entirely,” Thornton told WND.
The appeals court ruling came despite the fact that all three of the lawyers representing Melissa told the higher court the family had accepted a compromise offered by a lower court for her to return home under government supervision.
“In spite of [that] … the appeals court held that the family refused the court’s initial compromise to let Melissa become an outpatient,” Thornton said.
Thornton also suggested that the case even could end up extending its impact beyond the Busekros family.
“There is an increased fear among homeschoolers about whether their children are next,” he said.
Even those German families who already have fled to other countries because of Germany’s homeschool ban are moving into hiding because of the possibility they could be returned to face German fines or jail time for homeschooling, he said.
The IHRG reported it is working on several fronts to try to help Melissa and her family, with several German lawyers evaluate their options for an appeal, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if needed.
Thornton also said the IHRG is working to bring international pressure on Germany to resolve the case in the family’s favor, through efforts such as an international boycott on German goods.
The case has gotten the attention of the German community already.
“Christian activists say the case is an assault on religious liberties and the right of a Christian family to homeschool their daughter,” said Speigel Online International’s English-language edition.
“The case has been widely reportd in Christian and conservative media in the United States, with some commentators comparing the authorities to Nazis. Activists are being encouraged to pray for the girl and petition German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while one Web site is even calling for a boycott on German goods,” the report continued.
“However the German authorities deny that the case is an assault on homeschooling and say the decision to remove the girl from her family was motivated by concern for the girl’s welfare.”
The Spiegel report said a medical diagnosis for Melissa that was posted on the Internet reported she was suffering from “emotional disturbances” and “school phobia” and recommendation she be taken away from her parents.
Edeltraud Hollerer, of the Erlangen Youth Welfare Office which facilitated Melissa’s removal from her family, also told the German publication the case couldn’t be discussed for legal reasons. “The case has nothing to do with homeschooling,” Hollerer went on to explain.
Although that state agency didn’t explain, there were some comments from Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republican of Germany, who responded on a blog to a letter expressing concern over Melissa’s case. He said the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.”
Melissa had fallen behind in math and Latin, and was being tutored at home. When school officials in Germany, where homeschooling was banned during Adolf Hitler’s reign of power, found out, she was expelled. School officials then took her to court, obtaining a court order requiring she be committed to a psychiatric ward because of her “school phobia.”
“Homeschool may be equally effective in terms of test scores,” Drautz wrote. “It is important to keep in mind, however, that school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
Just last year the Human Rights Court for the European Union ruled in another similar case that any parental “wish” to have children grow up without the public school’s anti-Christian influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.”
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified during an earlier dispute on which WND reported, when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling…,” said a government letter in response. “You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers… In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
In Melissa’s case, the local Youth Welfare Office arrived at the family home with about 15 uniformed police officers to take her into custody. They had in hand a court order allowing them to take her into custody, “if necessary by force.”
Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The Youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Experts believe American homeschoolers should be concerned, as WND has reported, because the ease with which similar restrictions on free choice could be imposed in the United States.
Michael Farris, cofounder of the HSLDA, has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the right of parents to educate their children at home, in light of such developments in Europe.